There’s a reason the number of dog adoptions increased dramatically during the pandemic. The human-dog connection is a strong one—and caring for a pup also brings huge benefits to your mental health. Here are just some of the ways your Best Dog Friend boosts your well-being.
Stress relief. Research has shown that even just petting a friendly dog can decrease your blood pressure and relax muscle tension. Playing with a pet can also reduces levels of cortisol, the body’s stress hormone, and raise levels of serotonin, dopamine, and oxytocin—all of which help calm your nervous system.
Sense of purpose. A dog requires lots of care, but all of that feeding, bathing, petting, and playing helps you, too. Caring for an animal makes you feel needed and wanted, giving your life more meaning. If that isn’t enough good news, these positive feelings also help reduce depression and anxiety.
Emotional companionship. You see your dog as your best friend because they love you unconditionally. Dogs don’t care how you look, how talented you are, or how successful you are—they’re just always happy to be with you. That kind of emotional support has been proven to not only decrease feelings of loneliness, but also increase self-esteem.
Healthy habits. Dogs need to go on regular walks, hikes, and runs to stay healthy. That means dog owners benefit from all of that physical exercise, too. Dogs also need to spend time outside, which ensures dog owners get a breath of fresh air every day.
Social connection. Just think about all the times you’ve seen someone stop a dog owner to chat about their dog. Or how many times you’ve seen pet parents chat it up at the dog park. Dogs promote social interactions, helping you feel more extroverted and connected to those around you.
So go ahead and give your pup a hug. Your mental health will thank you.